Sheffield Steeldogs put daylight between themselves and Spring Cup rivals with double triumph over Telford Tigers

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS took a significant step towards lifting the Spring Cup after seeing off closest rivals Telford Tigers twice in two days.

Jason Hewitt scored two goals and an assist in the two wins over Spring Cup title rivals, Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

As expected, both games were keenly contested but Greg Wood’s team were able to follow up Saturday’s 4-3 win in Telford with a slightly more comfortable 5-2 win on home ice 24 hours later.

It leaves the Steeldogs four points clear with four games remaining, one of which will be in Telford on Wednesday, March 24.

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Before that, Wood’s players face off against Raiders and Bees next weekend before finishing off their campaign at home to Swindon Wildcats on SUnday, March 28.

As on Saturday in Shropshire, the Steeldogs went behind to an early goal, Austin Mitchell-King making a Tigers’ powerplay count when he pounced on a rebound from netminder Jordan Lawday, who could only parry the initial shot from former Steeldogs’ forward Kieran Brown at 5.41.

In what was another entertaining and open game, Ben Lake was denied by BRad Day at the other end before Robert Lachowicz had an excellent opportunity to double the visitors’ lead in the 14th minute after a neat feed from Brown.

Joe Aston then saw a chance loop over Lawday before quick-thinking by Ben Morgan saw him clear before it could drop down over the line.

The Tigers were made to pay shortly after when, while they were on another power play, Jason Hewitt was able to profit from a break down the right by Ben Lake, before bearing down on Day’s net, where he forced the puck home off his backhand to level the scores at 16.52.

Ben O'Connor registered two goals and an assist against Telford Tigers across the weekend, Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

Telford came close to regaining the lead, but Lachowicz and Ross Venus were frustrated by Lawday, while Sheffield Steelers’ Elite Series signing Sam Jones fired over when all alone in front.

They were again made to regret those misses when good pressure by Hewitt forced a turnover in the Tigers’ zone, the puck falling to Alex Graham before he took a couple of steps and fired into the bottom right-hand corner of Day’s net to make it 2-1 at 29.51.

That’s how it looked like staying until seven seconds before the end of the second period when Venus threw the puck towards the net from the left enabling Ricky Plant to force the puck home for the equalising goal.

But it was the first two minutes or so of the third period which proved to be the most crucial, when the Steeldogs quickly established a two-goal lead which seemed to knock the wind out of their opponents.

Ben Lake was first to strike, tipping in from Ben O’Connor at 40.53 before James Spurr was on hand at the back post to fire home after good work by Liam Kirk round the back of the Tigers’ net.

It was essentially the killer bow, with the visitors perhaps realising that not only had their chances of cancelling out the previous night’s defeat gone but, with it, their hopes of lifting the trophy.

Any hopes Tom Watkins’s team had of coming back were ended when O’Connor fired a piledriver past Day and over his left shoulder into the roof of the net to make it 5-2 at 52.56.

Telford had a short 5-on-3 shortly after, but they couldn’t make it count as the Steeldogs held on comfortably to strengthen their grip at the top of the standings with the only remaining 100 per cent record in the competition.

On Saturday, Venus has given Telford a lead on exactly the three-minute mark - the Steeldogs going behind for the first time in the entire competition.

But the visitors rallied the initial storm and got themselves level through Hewitt at 16.10, O’Connor then pouncing just over a minute later to give his team the lead.

Hewitt struck again - this time on the power play - to make it 3-1 at 24.04, but the hosts fought back, first making it a one-goal game through Plant at 28.50 before deservedly equalising on the power play through Venus at 44.45.

But the game was setted by a contentious goal from Jonathan Phillips, qho was quickest to react to jam the puck home past Brad Day at 55.48, although the hosts were convinced the puck hadn’t crossed the line.

Despite their appeals, the officials awarded the goal to the visitors and, with it, a significant advantage going into Sunday’s rematch on home ice.